November 14, 2013 in Nation/World

Authorities seek owner of gator left at airport

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This Nov. 1 photo provided by rider Mark Strotman shows a woman holding a 2-foot-long alligator on a Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line train in Chicago.
(Full-size photo)

CHICAGO – After tracking down a small alligator skulking in a baggage claim area at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, authorities are now hunting for its traveling companion.

The Chicago Transit Authority has released a series of images showing a woman who they believe rode to the airport on a CTA Blue Line train with the 2-foot-long gator in the early morning hours of Nov. 1.

Thanks to one of the most extensive surveillance systems in the United States, officials know this about the alligator’s trip to O’Hare: It boarded a train at the Pulaski stop – with the woman – at 1:17 a.m. The security camera captured the woman petting her little friend on her knee as she talked on her cellphone.

Blue Line rider Mark Strotman also snapped a picture with his phone of the woman and the alligator.

“She was sitting with it, petting it, letting people take pictures of it and telling everyone how she raised it from an early age,” said Strotman, 23, who initially thought the alligator might have been part of some “crazy Halloween getup” because it was on the train just an hour after Halloween turned into Nov. 1.

An hour later, the woman, presumably with the alligator, disembarked the train at the airport. At 2:44 a.m., she is again recorded by the security cameras near the O’Hare stop, but with no reptilian companion.

An airport employee found the alligator later in the day under an escalator near a baggage claim. Police captured the reptile by trapping it beneath a trash can.

Not only did officials name the creature Allie, but also handed it over to people who could care for it, just in the nick of time.

“It’s not responding well to food … It hasn’t had the proper nutrition. Its growth has been stunted. It has a bent spine, soft bones, soft fingernails and a soft skull,” Jason Hood, president of the Chicago Herpetological Society, told the Associated Press. The society took custody of the alligator.

Hood said the alligator spotted on the train has the same markings as the animal captured at the airport. It was never a serious threat to the public, too small for its bite to hurt anyone, he said. It’s believed to be a 2- or 3-year-old American alligator and its gender is unknown.

As for the woman, she could be in trouble because while carrying an alligator bag may be considered stylish, carrying a live alligator is a crime. Hood said the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act makes it illegal to own an alligator in the state.

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